Blog

7/7/2017 11:29:00 AM

People have been in search of straight, healthy teeth for centuries. Sometime in the 1800s, dentists started making advancements in the production of appliances to adjust teeth alignment. These early treatments were derived from metal and, for much of the next century and a half, this material remained unchanged while the design and use of braces developed.

Metal braces have been improved upon, as orthodontists transitioned from using gold and silver to more cost-effective stainless steel. But within the past decade, the demand for more aesthetically pleasing braces expanded patients’ options. Most popular among these brands is Invisalign, a system of clear, tray-based orthodontics.

If you wish to obtain a straighter smile, consider how you can benefit from this aesthetic option by comparing it to systems of metal orthodontics:

The Old Reliable: Metal Bracket-and-Wire Systems

Many dentists and orthodontists continue to work with metal braces, as the product is dependable and effective. Among patients, the most common motivator to choose metal braces is that they are typically an affordable option, but cost depends on the extent of their needs. 

For children, metal braces are often the default choice. Kids typically lack the discipline to wear and use removable braces with consistency, and the complex bite issues that can manifest as children’s teeth develop are usually best treated with braces.

Inconspicuous and Modern: Invisalign Clear Braces

In the late 20th Century, advancements in orthodontic technology expanded in ways to make braces inconspicuous. While braces with plastic brackets were attempted, they lacked the durability to be instituted as a regular treatment method. Invisalign braces then emerged, combining the function of a retainer with the cosmetic benefits of acrylic. This way, wearers could fix their alignment without the permanence and prominence of metal wires and brackets. 

For many patients, the cost of braces matches the cost of their removable aligner treatment. This is especially alluring if you are dealing with only minor to moderate alignment issues and the idea of full braces to correct that problem feels like over kill. Invisalign is often ideal for adult patients whose lifestyles and careers would be hampered by the visibility of metal braces. As they are highly discreet and removable, Invisalign makes it easy to align teeth without forcing wearers to compromise on their diet and oral health routines.

Invisalign clear braces do not have the same range of use as metal braces.. But for those with the most widespread and common dental issues, Invisalign provides a cosmetic and functional treatment.
If you’re wondering whether Invisalign is right for you, contact Drs. Steven and Michelle Okamoto for your clear braces consultation at their Torrance dental office.



3/28/2017 12:00:00 PM

Sleep apnea is a condition with two potential causes; your sleep-disordered breathing is either a result of soft tissue collapse at the back of your throat, or interruption of communication signals between your brain and body.  Effective treatments for sleep apnea are entirely dependent upon your diagnosis. Consider the following about your needs:

Central Sleep Apnea – CPAP Machine

As central sleep apnea does not involve any physical blockages of airways, CPAP machines are often the most beneficial appliances for treatment.  Even if your brain cannot tell your body to breathe rhythmically while sleeping, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure technology moves air through passageways to ensure deep sleep and prevent snoring. While CPAP is bulky, and utilizes a face mask with adjustable straps to keep it in place, it is the most predictable way to promote positive airflow for CSA sufferers.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Oral Appliance Therapy

Because this form of the condition is caused by soft tissues covering airways, solutions are more flexible. Soft tissue blockages can be moved out of the way through the forced air method utilized with CPAP, but many patients with OSA choose a dental night guard or oral appliance for better breathing. These devices reposition your jaw, moving the bottom arch forward slightly, which prevents the closure of breathing passages. Oral appliance therapy is comfortable, as patients can have their night guards custom fitted. There is also less equipment overall with the oral appliance and patient report easier adjustment to this form of treatment, improving compliance rates.

Complex Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

In some cases, a single treatment may not provide the relief the patient is looking for. For instances of complex sleep apnea, CPAP can be used in conjunction with a dental appliance. The appliance keeps airways open and CPAP moves air through the nose and throat. This comprehensive way to treat sleep apnea proves effective for patients dealing with multiple problems that prevent successful sleep breathing.

Ask our Sleep Apnea Dentist How He Can Help

Dr. Okamoto provides both sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment for sleep disordered breathing at his Torrance dental office. If you have questions about which treatment will work best for you, contact our office for a consultation. Part of your treatment includes at-home sleep monitoring, so there are no additional visits to a sleep study program.



3/16/2017 12:00:00 PM

You may have heard, time and time again, that sugary foods, drinks, and non-nutritional snacks are bad for your teeth. Though you may not question this logic, it’s important to understand what role your diet plays in your oral health.

One of the many diseases that Dr. Okamoto works to treat is periodontitis, a common yet preventable disease characterized by bleeding gums and brought on by bacteria attacking the tooth enamel and soft tissue. Although many believe the primary cause of gum disease to be poor oral hygiene, evidence also shows a correlation between diet and the onset of periodontitis.

What Foods Are You Eating in Excess?

Research suggests that diets rich in carbohydrates lead to more cases of gum disease. That’s because the sugars contained in carbohydrates become sticky, adhering to tooth enamel and allowing bacteria to spread. Combine large amounts of carbohydrates with poor oral hygiene practices and the bacteria on your teeth start to impact your gums as well.

As you work to improve your oral health, be mindful of the foods you consume. Of course, even the healthiest of foods contain some sugar, but the added sugars in many processed foods are what will do your teeth and gums the most harm. Read ingredient labels, and if you must indulge in your favorite treat, make sure to brush and floss thoroughly afterward.

What Foods Aren’t You Eating Enough Of?

While you’re limiting the amount of sugar you eat, it's also essential that you take in certain nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which are good for your body overall and support a healthy diet. Without them, your immune system may weaken and allow certain infections to spread.

When your diet lacks particular nutrients, periodontal disease may have an easier time affecting your gums. For this reason, a balanced diet is important to maintain. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products contain vitamins and minerals that benefit your oral health if eaten regularly. Proteins are also important for the strength of your tooth enamel.

Preventing Periodontal Disease Starts With You!

With a balanced diet, good oral hygiene practices, and regular dental checkups, you can keep periodontal disease at bay. If you would like more information about periodontal disease, contact Dr. Okamoto to schedule an appointment.



2/27/2017 12:00:00 PM

Your teeth and gums harbor bacteria that are typically disrupted and removed with daily brushing and flossing. When not properly cleaned, however, bacteria cause soft tissue infection, plaque and calculus buildup, and decay of tooth structures. Treatments for periodontal disease vary from non-invasive to surgical, and each has their own benefits to oral health.

Dr. Okamoto provides non-surgical gum treatments to patients with mild to moderate signs of gum problems and help patients understand when more extensive care may be necessary.

Non-surgical Treatments

These procedures do not involve incisions into gums or the removal of tissue. Rather, they focus on leaving gums and teeth intact and promote recovery after initial signs of infection. Dr. Okamoto treats existing issues and staves off further infection with deep cleaning procedures and the use of antibiotics.

The most common non-surgical treatment for periodontal disease is a comprehensive cleaning that targets the area below the gum line. In this procedure, bacteria are removed and the teeth are made clean and smooth, so bacteria cannot easily adhere to tooth roots. After receiving this treatment, many patients will require continued maintenance to keep the gums infection-free. This deep cleaning process may be used before surgical treatments as a preparatory procedure.

For continued gum health, patients cane recommended periodontal trays with beneficial medication. These custom trays, much like the ones used for teeth whitening, deliver antibiotics and other medicines. They are made to fit snugly on the teeth and let the medicine seep into gums to fight off bacteria. Used in conjunction with other non-surgical treatments, this is one way patients can support in-office care with at-home hygiene.

When are Surgical Treatments Necessary?

In some severe cases, periodontal disease affected bone and caused significant tissue recession, requiring more comprehensive treatment. In these cases, care of your smile may be referred to a gum specialist. Some procedures restore the smile after gums and teeth have been damaged by gum disease include:.

Pocket Reduction – Your dentist will gently pull gum tissue away from the tooth, cleaning its surface and beneath. The goal is to reduce the size of the periodontal pocket that has allowed food to get trapped and bacteria to grow.

Gum and Bone Grafting – When gingival decay has reduced the support of gums or bone, a synthetic or natural tissue can be used to cover exposed roots. This can reduce sensitivity, improve an uneven smile, and restore confidence in your oral health.

Dental Prosthetics – If teeth are lost due to advanced periodontitis, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a full smile again. Dental implants are biocompatible and fuse to the bone, providing a strong foundation for a personalized dental restoration. Crowns, bridges, and dentures are all supported by this innovative procedure.  If you’ve been affected by serious periodontal disease and are looking for restorations, Dr. Okamoto is a prosthodontic specialist and provides prosthetic teeth to restore oral health and function.

Contact Dr. Okamoto Today for Periodontal Treatment and Restoration

We are here to help you enjoy a healthier smile for a lifetime. If you have symptoms of periodontal disease, or are experience significant oral discomfort, call us today for information on gum disease treatment for dental rejuvenation with prosthetics.



2/16/2017 4:33:00 PM

If you visit your dentist bi-annually, you know to expect an examination and cleaning, but that’s only the routine when your oral health is relatively stable. For patients with excess plaque and tartar or signs of tooth decay, a standard cleaning may not alleviate these problems.

A quadrant cleaning, or deep cleaning, takes care of issues beneath the gum line. Dr. Okamoto may recommend a quadrant cleaning if you exhibit more severe oral health concerns such as signs of periodontal disease. If you’re curious about whether quadrant cleanings can improve the health and appearance of your teeth, find out more about the procedure below.

When is a Quadrant Cleaning Necessary?

If it’s been some time since you’ve visited a dentist or you have a particular area of your smile that needs more care, a quadrant cleaning may be able to prevent further dental problems. The word quadrant refers to one of four areas in your smile that require more extensive cleaning. Typically, patients with tissue infection, tooth decay, bleeding gums, or gum recession can benefit from a deeper cleaning.

When it’s no longer possible to address all current dental problems through a traditional cleaning, your dentist may call for a quadrant cleaning. The procedure is your dentist's way of performing the least invasive treatment possible to protect the health of teeth and gums.

What’s the Treatment Like?

A quadrant cleaning focuses on one section of your dentition at a time, which ensures your dentist’s undivided attention in a single area. If necessary, a local anesthetic is used to make you as comfortable as possible during treatment.

Dr. Okamoto thoroughly removes all plaque and tartar from tooth enamel as well as any debris below the gum line. Measurements of soft tissue can also be taken to determine the severity of gum disease, if symptoms present themselves.

Additional treatment is performed if deep pockets around your teeth have developed, or if soft tissue infection has created abscesses and larger issues. Dr. Okamoto will determine the best method of cleaning during an examination beforehand.

What Happens After Treatment?

Your teeth and gums should feel no different than they would after a regular cleaning, but if you do experience any discomfort, an over-the-counter pain medication can help. Dr. Okamoto may suggest that you use an oral rinse regularly and will give you instructions on how to care for your teeth and gums at home.

Quadrant cleanings are usually completed in phases, with one to two areas addressed at a time. Patients are typically asked to come in for a routine check-up every three to six months, depending on their individual case.

A quadrant cleaning can save your teeth and prevent dental issues in the future. For more information about quadrant cleanings or any of our other services, contact Steven K. Okamoto, DDS at (310) 362-6395 to schedule an appointment.



1/30/2017 12:00:00 PM

While experiencing total tooth failure is less common as oral health education, use of fluoride, and improved dental services that are readily available, it’s still an issue that patients face. Tooth failure is problematic and troublesome, but it can be corrected with better understanding of why it happened and what treatments are available to solve loss of function and overall health.

Why Do Teeth Fail?

It’s possible to experience dental problems due to genetic predisposition to poor soft tissue health and weak, demineralized teeth – or even a naturally unbalanced bite that was never corrected, which created broken and damaged teeth. However, teeth most often fail due to a prolonged history of dental problems, poor oral health practices, diet and lifestyle choices, and even unskilled or infrequent dental care.

Patients who see their teeth fail in their 40s and 50s are often those who started having dental problems early, with frequent and poorly provided fillings, or unnecessary capping of teeth. Over the years, these patients may have experienced repeat root canals and have a patchwork of prosthetics that have become worn and ineffective after a number of years.

Teeth can also fail if oral hygiene isn’t practiced regularly. This includes dental checkups as well as thorough at-home brushing and flossing. Patients who do not practice diligent dental care and make poor diet choices, including overconsumption of acid causing foods and utilizing tobacco, will quickly notice more frequent instances of decay and gum recession.

Unfortunately, teeth can also become damaged beyond repair with treatment from dentists who do not invest in patient wellness, take the time to get to know their needs, or practice conservative treatment methods. Inexperienced dentists who make mistakes during fillings or crown preparation, those who do not properly seal crowns and bridges, or even practitioners who provide unnecessary restorations can all contribute to the ultimate failure and extraction of affected teeth.

Treatment for Total Tooth Loss

In the hands of a qualified and experienced dentist, regaining your oral health and restoring all lost teeth in an arch is possible. As a skilled provider of dental implants and multiple surgical processes involved in the implant treatment process, patients at Dr. Okamoto’s Torrance dental office benefit from full smile restoration with varying numbers of dental implants, implant-supported dentures, and All on 4. Patients interested in these treatment plans can expect all phases of care to be completed at our practice, including extraction of failing teeth, bone grafting, implant placement, and restoration of implants with natural-looking prosthetics.

Don’t trust care of your smile to anyone other than an experienced professional. If you’re dealing with severely broken, decayed, and failing teeth, call Drs. Okamoto to ask our implant treatment options.



1/18/2017 12:00:00 PM

Not many dental patients need to be reminded that visiting the dentist twice a year is routine and important, but they don’t often stop to think about why exactly that is. Dental appointments end up being e-mail reminders that pop up on your calendar every so often and seem easy to put off, but there’s real value in regular cleanings, including:

Catching Decay and Damage Early

While dental crowns and fillings are accepted as typical dental treatments, they’re restorations used after decay has already taken hold. When you think about it that way, these procedures seem less easy to ignore and prevention becomes more important. Even small points of decay are still damage to teeth that can ultimately compromise dental health – and some patients don’t even know they have a cavity in its initial stages.

That’s where routine dental appointments become essential. During your examination, Drs. Okamoto can tell you when small spots of decay have developed, thereby preventing the need for more serious treatment and helping to preserve your teeth. Even if a tooth doesn’t feel sensitive or damaged, there’s a chance you could be experiencing tooth decay; only a dentist will be able to tell you for certain during a routine examination.

Prevention of Gum Disease

Gum disease is another common problem, but one that is discussed more frequently, as there are plenty of products that promise to help prevent gum problems and keep your smile healthy. But the truth is that it’s hard to have healthy gums without regular dental cleanings. Even with patients’ best efforts, there are places under the gum line or on and between teeth can be missed through regular brushing and flossing, allowing plaque and tartar accumulate. Though these contribute to gum disease, keeping regular preventive appointments with your dentist provides for thorough removal of build-up and keeps soft tissue infection at bay.

Creating Positive Dental Experiences

Fear of the dentist is powerful and can keep many patients away for years on end. This creates risk for serious dental problems and puts an ever-growing gap between you and your dentist. But when you visit your dentist for regular cleanings, you give them the opportunity to get to know you, earn your trust, and battle any dental anxiety, so you can have a healthy smile. Even complex dental procedures can be made more comfortable when you visit twice a year and keep up good communication with your dentist.

Are you Due for a Cleaning? Call our Office!

Call Drs. Steven and Michelle Okamoto today if you’re due for your next dental cleaning or have a question for our team.



12/21/2016 12:00:00 PM

Choosing orthodontic treatment to achieve the smile you want is an important one. Will your treatment plan meet your expectations? Will your appliances be comfortable? In considering braces, you’ve likely done research on options and thought about more cosmetic options, like Invisalign®. But how can you be sure that this treatment is right for you?

Determining Severity of Alignment Problems

The first step is to schedule a consultation with our Invisalign® dentists to determine if the issues you’re experiencing can be effectively corrected with clear braces. Invisalign® is ideal for treating minor to moderate problems that include:

  • Teeth alignment relapse after an initial round of braces
  • Tilted and twisted teeth
  • Minor crowding
  • Small gaps between teeth
Patients with severe bite problems, such as crossbite, open bite, or underbite may be better suited for traditional metal braces, or metal braces with more aesthetic components such as tooth-colored brackets and wires. However, Invisalign® is well-suited for the most common issues patients experience, as described above.

Adapting to Treatment

Getting used to Invisalign® isn’t much of a challenge compared to adapting to life with metal braces. This can include diet restrictions, more difficult teeth cleaning routines, and soft tissue discomfort; however, there are some tips to keep in mind. It’s important to keep your Invisalign® someplace safe while they’re not in-place. The aligners are meant to be removed during meals and before brushing and flossing teeth, and can therefore be misplaced if patients aren’t careful. Store your trays in their provided cases.

To keep your aligners clean, use a soft bristled toothbrush to sweep away bacteria and debris before putting them back in place. After meals, it’s also a good idea to thoroughly clean teeth, so that food particles do not become trapped on and between teeth throughout the day. Avoid using toothpaste while cleaning retainers to prevent scratching. Do not bite, chew, or otherwise play with the retainers when they’re in place so they don’t become warped and ineffective in re-aligning teeth.

Still Debating? Ask us about Clear Braces

If you have a question about whether you’re a candidate for Invisalign®, contact our office today to learn more about this treatment for achieving straighter teeth.



12/16/2016 12:00:00 PM

Dental anxiety is common and ranges from those who simply feel a little nervous about visiting the dentist, to others who are so fearful they cannot bring themselves to keep regular appointments for teeth cleanings. If you’re worried or anxious about visiting the dentist, there are ways to combat your fear so you can keep your smile healthy.

Share your Concerns

It’s difficult to battle fears about dental care if they go undiscussed. Talk to your dentist about what makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, whether it’s the fear of the unknown, certain sounds or smells, or a sensitive gag reflex. Sharing what triggers your fears allows your dentist to be mindful and considerate, creating more comfortable dental appointments. Drs. Okamoto work together with patients to thoroughly explain treatment plans so there’s no unexpected steps in your treatment. We can also recommend headphones and other actions that help to drown out sounds and sights that can make you feel anxious.

Ask to Take Breaks

Even with productive coping methods like what’s described above, it can be difficult for some patients to avoid feelings of anxiousness during an entire appointment. Communication becomes important here as well. Set up a signal with your dentist that indicates you’d like to take a quick break before your treatment resumes. Helping to stay relaxed by taking a break when you need to keeps the feeling in the entire treatment room more comfortable for everyone. Communicate the need for a break so both you and your dentist can confidently move forward with treatment.

Concentrate on Breathing

Mindful, focused breathing techniques are proven to help minimize feelings of anxiety. Some patients are so worried and focused on what their dentist is doing that they forget to breathe. This can make some people gag and can heighten the sense of worry that fearful patients experience. If you’re feeling anxious while in the dental chair, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing; this goes a long way in calming down the physical anxiety response.

Split up Longer Appointments, if Possible

If you’re scheduled for a lengthier procedure to correct damage caused by years of avoiding the dentist, ask how your treatment plan can be segmented into different visits to help curb the anxiety of more complex procedures. While some patients prefer to have all treatment completed at once, others feel better knowing that their visits will be shorter and involve less work.

Ask Drs. Okamoto about Gentle Dentistry

We support caring dental services for anxious patients. If you have questions about what we can do to help relieve your dental anxiety, contact our office today to speak to a friendly member of our team.



11/28/2016 12:00:00 PM

For edentulous patients (those who have lost all natural teeth), dentures are still the go-to procedure for restoring the appearance of a healthy smile and the function delivered by strong teeth. However, modern dental techniques allow Drs. Steven and Michelle Okamoto to customize treatment to meet your expectations.

If you are in need of dentures to restore your smile, consider the following treatment options and how you can keep your smile healthy with your new teeth:

Traditional or Fixed Dentures?

Dental implants are touted as a revolutionary way to replace teeth, and they do provide significant benefits, but some patients are simply uninterested or do not wish to complete the surgical component of implant treatment. For many patients, removable traditional dentures serve them well, while others may struggle with their prosthetics.  Take the following into consideration when choosing which teeth replacement option will provide best comfort and function:

Missing all Teeth in a Top Arch – Though traditional dentures are held in place with temporary adhesive only, denture patients often have more success with upper dentures. With these top prosthetics, there is a component that covers the palate and helps to keep replacement teeth stable through creating suction. Though some patients find this portion of the denture to restrict taste, it’s an important part of keeping teeth in place and providing for a higher success rate.

Bottom Dentures- Comprehensive tooth loss on the bottom jaw arch tends to be the most problematic. While removable dentures can be used here as well, patients often report more issues with these replacement teeth, as there is less suction to hold them in place.  Because of this, and because bottom dentures are an important part of supporting chewing function, they often slip and slide out of place or become loose after consistent wear and use. For those patients, just a few dental implants can create the comfort and stability needed to ensure that their smile is functional and feels more natural.

Taking Care of your New Teeth

It’s important to remove your dentures each night and soak them while you sleep, so that they do not become dry and do not trap bacteria and debris that can cause bad breath. It’s also suggested that you brush your dentures with a soft bristled tooth brush before you soak them to keep them as clean as possible.  Be careful not to use toothpaste when cleaning your dentures and not to damage them by using a brush with bristles that are too hard.

If your denture is removable, but held in place with implants, you can follow the same care steps as listed above. If you’ve selected to receive dentures that are permanently affixed and removable only at our dental office, you will need to be diligent about cleaning under your prosthetic with a device like a waterpik.

Undecided about which denture treatment best fits your needs? Contact our Torrance prosthodontist for more information about removable and fixed dentures.



11/15/2016 12:00:00 PM

At Steven K. Okamoto, DDS, Drs. Steven and Michelle Okamoto want patients to experience the most comprehensive care for their needs, which is why our team partners and cooperates with general care providers and specialists in the creation of your treatment plan, whenever needed. These partnerships are essential in improving systemic and dental health. The following are just some of the ways we work together with other professionals to care for our patients:

Oncologists for Pre-Cancer Dentistry

If you or a person you know is dealing with cancer, our dental office is able to work with your primary care physician and oncologist to assess your medical history and create an all-inclusive treatment plan. Drs. Michelle and Steve Okamoto provide beneficial care in protecting the health of your smile as you complete necessary therapies to combat the progression of your condition and ensure future wellness.

Steven K. Okamoto, DDS is dedicated to working with chemotherapy patients to maintain proper oral health during this time. Visit our dental office either before or during your chemotherapy treatment and we can establish contact with your medical team to maintain your dental health status under after your course of chemotherapy is complete.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Dental Appliances and Sleep Physicians

You may be looking to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) without the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. When providing OSA appliances, we consult your general care physician, determining whether such treatment is ideal for you, and collection information about current health standings that may inform how your treatment is completed at our office. 

Part of this cooperation includes your participation in a sleep study. While our office provides at-home sleep tests for determining the cause and severity of sleep disordered breathing, findings that can affect your overall health can and should be shared with your primary care physician. In cases of sleep apnea, overall health concerns like maintaining an optimal weight for your height and monitoring your blood pressure are all components that your general practitioner can provide assistance with during sleep apnea treatment through our dental office.

Existing Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions are intricately linked with your dental health, and vice versa. When diagnosing and treating these problems, your general physician and our dentists work together to determine the best course of treatment for you. One such circumstance is the correlation between gum disease and systemic health. Chronic gum disease can lead to serious heart problems, as the plaque present in soft tissue infections can build up in arteries when allowed into the blood stream. Patients exhibiting serious gum disease problems are treated by our office and often advised to have their general health carefully monitored to ensure they are not at-risk for secondary problems.

Cooperative Dental Medicine

If you are looking for comprehensive dental treatment that works in concert with your general care physician, contact Steven K. Okamoto, DDS and Michelle Okamoto, DDS today. Our team is eager to provide full care for residents in and around the Torrance area.



11/3/2016 12:00:00 PM

Cancer of any type is frightening, but the more we learn about certain types of cancers and seek routine examinations to catch problems early, the better able we are to ensure health and wellness for our patients into the future. Oral cancer, for example, has been researched extensively; with that comes the knowledge that avoiding certain behaviors can decrease the likelihood of developing cancer.  With this in mind, routine and preventive dental care is important in preventing and detecting cancer.

Who is at Risk?

While cancer can affect anyone, there are behaviors that increase risk. In particular, extensive tobacco use is a significant catalyst for oral cancer; an estimated 80% of oral cancer cases affect patients who smoke or chew tobacco. Both smoked tobacco and chewed tobacco affect different areas, with cigarettes causing the most harm for the mouth and throat and chewing tobacco affecting the cheeks, lips and gums.

Alcohol can also increase the risk of cancer. Studies indicate that men who drink more than two servings (pints or glasses) a day or women who drink more than one have a significantly higher risk of developing oral cancer than others. When compounded with smoking or chewing tobacco, the likelihood of developing oral cancer increases dramatically. If you are able to kick or curb tobacco and alcohol habits, your risk is minimized. 

Several things beyond your control may also have increase chances of developing oral cancer. Genetics, radiation exposure, certain infections, gender, and age can all increase likelihood. Studies show that men are twice as likely to get it, and the vast majority of those who have it are over 55-years-old. People who spend the majority of their time outdoors also have higher risk for lip cancer.

Dental Hygienists: Catching Signs of Oral Cancer Early

Staying on top of biannual dental office visits is an essential part of diagnosing oral cancer early, with dental hygienists acting as the first lines of defense in spotting early warning signs Typically, oral cancer starts as a cluster of small white or red spots. Other warning signs include bleeding sores that do not heal or odd discoloration in certain areas. Some patients may develop lumps or unnatural toughening in spots throughout their mouth or on lips.

At Okamoto, DDS, our dental hygienists are trained to examine your smile for the presence of oral cancer each year. During this inspection, our dental hygienist will ensure that no lesions are present and will also visually examine tissues that include the floor of the mouth, palate, tongue, and tonsils. Our screenings also extend to the neck and thyroid to determine the presence of issues with the lymph nodes. 

If any of these problems are detected, fast action by our dental hygienists allows patients to receive appropriate medical attention as quickly as possible, including biopsies, excision of affected tissue, and even chemotherapy. These life-saving examinations and early treatments make all the difference in ensuring that patients are informed about their oral health and can access the most proactive care for their needs.

Talk to our Hygiene Team about Oral Cancer Screenings

The next time you’re due for a teeth cleaning, please feel free to ask our dental hygiene team about when you’re due for an oral cancer screening or what occurs during a preventive examination. If you have noticed any of the symptoms above on your own smile, contact our office as soon as possible for a screening.



Providing Advanced Dentistry in Torrance for More Than 30 Years


Steven K. Okamoto, DDS
Michelle Okamoto, DDS

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